EXCLUSIVE: 'Cannabis Saved My Kid, Psychedelics Saved Me,' Heather Jackson Talks About Taboo Plant Medicine

What is the most powerful force in the world?

Of course, it is love, but what kind of love? Not a single doubt – it is a parent’s love for their children.

One person, one mother that has proven this to be true is Heather Jackson, an international speaker, author and published researcher. She is also the co-founder and president of the Realm of Caring Foundation (RoC), a cannabis-focused non-profit that helps families struggling with life-limiting and chronic health conditions through research education and grants.

Worst Feeling On The Planet

Jackson's involvement in the cannabis sphere came unplanned. “I am a byproduct of the 'Just Say No' 1980s. I've always believed that cannabis was probably bad for you,” Jackson told Benzinga. Things changed when her son, Zaki was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood epilepsy, which caused him to have hundreds of thousands of seizures, eventually leading him into hospice palliative care.

Not only did prescription drugs not help his seizures, they produced “a poor quality of life and long-term side effect that never went away, like cataracts and bone loss.”

What he needed was a daily dose of CBD, and his seizures stopped.

“I was definitely helpless, but I was never hopeless,” Jackson said in an interview with the University of Colorado. “Our job as a parent is to protect our child, but with this, there is nothing you can do. It’s the worst feeling on the planet.”

After witnessing the healing power of CBD through Zaki’s successful treatment, Jackson wanted to help other families dealing with similar issues. She co-founded the Realm of Caring Foundation with just four families in 2012. One of them is Paige Figi, the mother of Charlotte Figi, the young girl from Colorado who helped spread the word about the benefits of CBD for those suffering from rare forms of epilepsy.

Charlotte became known worldwide after taking part in Dr. Sanjay Gupta's 2013 CNN documentary “Weed.” Charlotte, who had Dravet syndrome - a type of epilepsy that caused her to have hundreds of seizures a day - finally found relief when her parents began treating her with medicinal cannabis. 

Reimagining The Way We Think

“My mission is to reimagine the way we think, talk, and respond to plant medicine and the people who use it,” Jackson said.

Today, the Realm of Caring’s network helps over 72,000 patients worldwide with all manner of conditions from infants to people in their 90s. The organization, which facilitates acceptance of cannabinoid-based therapies, is committed to researching novel healthcare options and providing trusted resources to create, support and build community.

Jackson shared a testimony with Benzinga of a cannabis patient who was suffering from PTSD and found marijuana helpful. The person said, “At one time of my life, during the beginning stages of my admitting and seeking treatment for PTSD, I was taking so many prescription pills that it made me a zombie. After I started taking CBD oil, I slept like a baby regularly, which started alleviating most of my symptoms. I would much rather take this than an abundance of prescription medication any day."

Heather Meets Psychedelics

Heather is no stranger to the healing power of other natural resources – psychedelics.

When her son relapsed after several successful years of CBD therapy and his seizures started again, she developed PTSD. She began exploring natural options for herself.

“In 2016, I took a macro dose of psilocybin with a guide in the woods and integrated with my therapist for months after - and my life has changed for the better ever since.”

After her positive experience with psychedelics, Jackson co-founded and became president of Unlimited Sciences, a psychedelic research nonprofit that relies on the power of real-world data to educate the community and seek common-sense policies on the use of psychedelics. With more than 30 million people trying psychedelics in the U.S. alone, the organization wants to “access this knowledge, mitigate harm and reduce stigma through education.”

Education, Preparation, Integration, Contraindications, Law

To people who are interested in exploring psychedelics but are hesitant to try because of societal stigma, Jackson advises two things: education and a lot of preparation. The more you educate and prepare, the more likely are you to have a positive experience, she said.

Jackson cautioned that psychedelics are illegal in all but a few locations in the U.S., which is why she suggests going to ketamine clinics. Though ketamine is not a traditional psychedelic, she recommends it as a good starting point, especially for people dealing with depression.

“You could also try to enroll in a trial or go to a retreat center with indigenous facilitators out of the country where you will not face prosecution,” Jackson says. “Get a good referral from someone you trust, and always talk with your doctor.“

She cautioned that there are contraindications for minors and people with a history of seizures, heart, kidney and liver problems as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women. “Some psychedelics are unsuitable while on SSRIs or mood stabilizers, and consumption is not recommended for individuals with certain mental health conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder,” she added.

Jackson stressed that when it comes to psychedelics, it's important to work with a professional and start with a low dose. “Dosage will make a big difference in the effects and how you perceive what is happening within you and around you. You can always take more; you can never take less."

Another important thing to be aware of is that occasionally unpleasant and unfamiliar scary things can emerge.

“Familiarize yourself with the four methods of integration...the synthesis of the mind and body following the experience.”

Last summer Unlimited Sciences conducted an observational research study with a group of immigrants and refugees who took part in an Ayahuasca ceremony. One participant said, "It allowed me to rewrite certain narratives that I've had for so long, and it allowed me to revisit some past memories so suppressed that I didn't even know I had. It was very therapeutic, and it was very healing."

However, Jackson makes it clear that these substances are not for everyone and that people should be educated so they can make their own decisions with their doctors.

What’s Next For Cannabis? How About Psychedelics?

Jackson thought that marijuana would be federally legal by now, but progress seems to be two steps forward and one step back. “What I would like to see is more individualized medicine in cannabis. Where the consumer comes first, and products are easily accessible.”

As for psychedelics, Jackson acknowledged that the space is attracting more financial investment to support drug development. She said she hopes that those who are building the industry today will not forget those who came before. “These substances have a long-standing indigenous use and intelligence, and we cannot fail to pay it back. To recognize and elevate the indigenous voice. I hope decriminalization continues because no one should be in jail for possessing or consuming nature.”

Photo: Courtesy Image



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Posted In: CannabisNewsExclusivesMarketsCharlotte FigiHeather JacksonPaige FigiRealm of Caring FoundationUnlimited SciencesUnviersity of ColoradoWomen's History Month
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